Bypass opponents clear ‘roadblock’

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 8, 2008

AHOSKIE – Never tell Kent Williams he can’t do something.

Since the 2007 birth of the Citizens Against the Ahoskie Bypass (CAAB), a grassroots group co-founded by Williams and his Powellsville neighbor Garry Terry, Williams has encountered his fair share of roadblocks. In each case, Williams has cleared those hurdles and moved forward with his quest of saving his family farmland as well as the properties of hundreds of total strangers.

“Along the way I’ve been told I can’t do this or do that,” Williams told a crowd of 200 gathered Tuesday night at Bearfield Primary School, the site of the monthly CAAB meeting. “Well I’m here to tell you that I can and I will do everything in my power to save homes, churches, businesses, cemeteries and farms from this planned bypass.”

Williams told the crowd he has removed the barricade from

his latest roadblock.

“I was told from the get-go that we wouldn’t be able to hold a public meeting in Bertie County,” Williams said. “Well, I’m here to tell you that we will. We will take our message to the citizens of Bertie County and anyone else that wants to listen.”

Williams said that meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 19 at Bertie High School.

“If only two people show up, then we will tell them the truth….I don’t think they’ve been told the truth about this road,” Williams said.

The southern end of the planned Ahoskie Bypass is near Powellsville, in Bertie County. Additionally, NC DOT Project R-2506 is a future plan that calls for widening, to four lanes, US 13 from the south end of the bypass to Windsor.

“There are 334 homes, 12 family cemeteries and seven businesses that will be lost in that project,” Williams said. “I’ve been going door-to-door in that area to let those folks know what’s down the road for them. Some have informed me that they were told their homes wouldn’t be affected, that a new road would be built in the woods behind them. Well, from what Garry found out, that’s not so.”

Terry said his investigation has produced evidence that R-2506 would be constructed along the existing US 13 right-of-way.

“These people are being told something that is wrong,” Terry said. “That the purpose of the Aug. 19 meeting, to tell them the truth.”

Meanwhile, Williams and Terry continue to push DOT to add another to its list of five current alternative bypass routes.

In June, the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald broke the news that CAAB had approved a measure calling for DOT to add the NC 305 corridor, south of Aulander, to its list of bypass alternatives. According to Williams and Terry, that route, although longer, will possibly not affect a single home, church, business, cemetery or farm.

The NC 305 plan calls for improvements to NC 11 South which will carry vehicles on the west side of Ahoskie before that traffic will turn south on a new road constructed through woods adjacent to NC 305.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Jay McInnis, DOT Project Engineer for the Ahoskie Bypass, fielded a question from Williams in reference to the NC 305 alternative.

“Has anybody asked you to look at 305,” Williams quizzed, to which McInnis answered, “no.”

“I think that DOT is being told that just a small number of people are against this bypass and everybody else is for it…that just ain’t so,” Williams said. “We have an alternative if someone will just listen. A lot of folks stand to lose all they have and it’s not right when there is an alternative that doesn’t take away their homes, their land. All we’re asking is that DOT look at our plan. All we’re asking is to save our homes and our land. I feel that as taxpayers of North Carolina, we are at least owed that (to look at the alternative).”

McInnis also fielded questions from Williams and Terry in regards to the reason behind building a bypass around a small town.

“We’ve been told it’s being built for economic development,” Williams said, “but no one has told me who will benefit from that.”

McInnis said DOT does build roads based on capacity. When asked what was the traffic count that would justify improving a road based on capacity, McInnis replied 15,000-to-20,000 cars per day.

To prove that the Ahoskie Bypass isn’t being built for capacity reasons, Williams and Terry released the numbers generated from a traffic count survey conducted July 22 and July 24 by CAAB.

Those numbers, taken during a 16-hour period on both days, revealed 3,447 vehicles on NC 11 (near Lewiston) on July 22 compared to 2,555 on US 13 near Windsor. The NC 11 traffic count was even higher on July 24 where 3,723 vehicles were recorded compared to 2,713 for US 13 on the same date. Special attention was noted to the number of trucks among that traffic, a combined 1,603 on NC 11 during the two days. The US 13 truck count was a combined 474.

“There’s nearly four times the truck traffic on NC 11 than US 13,” Terry noted. “And why do the trucks choose 11 over 13 when both are north-south routes….because 11 is the shorter route and that saves fuel. It’s been our contention all along that 11 should be improved. It already bypasses Ahoskie and the right-of-way to widen it to four lanes already exists from Winton to Lewiston.”

Also in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting was Anita Earls, Director of the Southern Coalition of Social Justice based in Durham.

“I’m here tonight to listen and learn of ways we may can help you,” Earls said.

Al Litton of the Pat McCrory campaign for NC Governor also attended the meeting.